THE TOMBS is a historical fantasy that takes place in an alternate history New York in 1882. Avery Kohl is a young woman working in one of the many factories with an ability to see auras. She and her father are hiding from the Crows who took her mother and imprisoned her in an asylum called the Temple of Mind Balance Studies—the titular Tombs. Her father works as a clockmaker/inventor of sorts which brings the steampunk element to the story.

Avery worries that she has inherited her mother’s visions and it becomes impossible to ignore after the unusual explosion at the factory she is employed in. It is with the acknowlegement of these powers and the help of others that she is able to embrace her power as an aura healer. Inspired, she begins on her trek to release her mother from the tombs she has been unjustly imprisoned in and away from the mad scientist that is using her gifts.

THE TOMBS by Deborah Schaumberg was initially promising, with it’s slight steampunk element and intriguing plot line. Yet, As I delved deeper into this story the pace lagged a bit, while displaying plot points that could have been better developed. I also wish that it’s attempt at diversity did not seem to skirt the borders of being offensive. It’s a novel that had much promise and I can see where some would find it interesting, but can understand if some do not care for it.



Deborah Schaumberg

Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 20, 2018)Language: EnglishISBN-10: 0062656449

ISBN-13: 978-0062656445

Gangs of New York meets Cassandra Clare in this debut YA fantasy set in 1882 Brooklyn

New York, 1882. A dark, forbidding city, and no place for a girl with unexplainable powers.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Kohl pines for the life she had before her mother was taken. She fears the mysterious men in crow masks who locked her mother in the Tombs asylum for being able to see what others couldn’t. Avery denies the signs in herself, focusing instead on her shifts at the ironworks factory and keeping her inventor father out of trouble. Other than secondhand tales of adventure from her best friend, Khan, an ex-slave, and caring for her falcon, Seraphine, Avery spends her days struggling to survive.

Like her mother’s, Avery’s powers refuse to be contained. When she causes a bizarre explosion at the factory, she has no choice but to run from her lies, straight into the darkest corners of the city. Avery must embrace her abilities and learn to wield their power—or join her mother in the cavernous horrors of the Tombs. And the Tombs has secrets of its own: strange experiments are being performed on “patients”…and no one knows why.


Deborah Schaumberg was born in Brooklyn, not far from where her novel The Tombs takes place. She grew up renovating dilapidated old houses with her family. She and her father would walk the rooms, floor by floor, making up stories about the inhabitants that were filled with dark secrets, monsters, and, of course, ghosts. Deborah is a writer and an artist whose work always has an element of fantasy to it, and since she also studied architecture, settings are equally important. It was on a trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal that she imagined a girl with the ability to see energy, and the seed of The Tombs was planted. She collects old bottles, and her favorite holiday is, you guessed it, Halloween. Deborah lives with her family and two dogs in Maryland, just outside DC. Visit her at deborahschaumberg.com.

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